Why sleep deprivation is different to being tired

“I’m so tired” – the phrase guaranteed to wind any sleep-deprived parent up when it comes from the mouth of anyone other than another sleep-deprived parent .

Being tired is very different from the endless sleep deprivation over a period of years during early parenting.

  • I have been tired from partying hard at university
  • I have been tired from being poorly
  • I have been tired from revising and studying really hard
  • I have been tired from working a long, stressful week at work and dealing with a range of issues
  • I have been tired from jet lag
  • I have been tired because I have not slept through worry
  • I have been tired from physically pushing my body – like during a marathon
  • I have been tired from pregnancy
  • I have been tired from long labours, inductions and difficult births

I have felt all of these types of tiredness and yet none of these compare to the sheer, sometimes overwhelming exhaustion from years of sleep deprivation.


Remember that sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture – any parent, who has gone through this, and especially those who handle this alone, without a partner willing to share the load, will tell you that is true – this means of course that sleep deprived parents would probably make awesome spies! I always wanted to be a spy!

The sleep-deprived (not tired) among us are opening ourselves up to a range of frightening things. Aside from irritability, there are a number of side effects of sleep deprivation:

  • Yawning
  • Impaired brain activity
  • Cognitive dysfunction
  • Accidental death
  • Memory problems
  • Hallucinations
  • Depression
  • Micro sleep
  • Accident prone
  • Weight gain
  • Weakened immune response
  • Cold and Flu
  • Blood pressure problems
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Heart disease

So next time you get cross with someone for forgetting something, dropping the jam, yawning whilst you are talking, putting something in the wrong place or some other crime of epic proportions – just take a moment to ask yourself if they are a parent, and if they are, cut them some slack because they are being slowly tortured!

If you are a parent lucky enough to pass this all over to your partner every night then hug them a little tighter tomorrow night and be grateful that they are saving you from the list of nasty things above.

Are you being tortured?


  1. Thanks for this article, this rings true for me. I am a better now since my youngest turned 1, however I have just gone back to work after maternity leave and I feel it creeping back.

  2. I love my sleep and it was the thing I have struggled most with since becoming a parent. I had forgotten that sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture – I will remind my hubby of that next time he says he is ‘exhausted’ haha #twinklytuesday

  3. I totally wanted to be a spy too!! I’ve been sleep deprived for 3 years… maybe I should get in touch with MI5 again and see if they’re reconsider my application 😉
    I swear my post natal anxiety wasn’t anything hormonal with my first but was actually sleep deprivation. It’s such a hideous strain!!
    Hurrah for not succumbing to side effect number four!

  4. I can remember, before baby, being really tired. And listening to people with kids say things like “Well, you just never know what tired *really* is until you’ve had a baby!” And I always thought, “Psshhh I’m sure it’s bad but not THAT bad.”

    HOW WRONG I WAS! Sleep deprivation due to a baby who doesn’t sleep through, it is so totally different. And *I* am now one of those people that say “You don’t know what tired is!” Funny, that! #TwinklyTuesday

  5. Nothing more annoying than a person telling me they are ‘tired’ after a night out or a late flight, I’m another person in the ‘you don’t know what tired is!’ club 🙂

  6. “just take a moment to ask yourself if they are a parent, and if they are, cut them some slack because they are being slowly tortured!” Too funny, I love that! I just have 1 baby and I actually haven’t felt as sleep deprived as I used to now that we bedshare, but I do still have to bite my tongue when someone else says “I’m tired.” I have an article about when bedsharing is safe that you can read if you think it might help you get some more sleep! It’s worked out great for us. http://tinyurl.com/njkq45g

  7. I don’t think anything could’ve prepared me for the sleep deprivation! It’d impossible to know the severity of it until you have a baby, totally different to being tired! #brillblogposts

  8. It is so true! My toddler now sleeps very well most nights, but he woke every 3 hours up until 8 months old. My brain never recovered. You actually get permanent brain damage from long term sleep deprivation… Scary isn’t it!

  9. Thankfully, not any longer 🙂 It is such a relief to know that when I go to bed I am unlikely to woken by a child, instead of extremely likely to be! Sleep deprivation is brutal, takes a long time to recover x #sharewithme

  10. My 4 and 6 year olds are both going through a phase of sleepless nights. I am shattered! I have to keep reminding myself it’s just a phase – hopefully! Hx #TheList

  11. As always a great read! We were very lucky with Elliott who slept through the night from 8 weeks so i never felt tired as got a full nights sleep – my heart goes out to the parents that ar e up every night, every hour! Such lovely photographs too! Suz x Beauisblue.com

  12. Yep, I am definitely being slowly tortured, though it has gotten better now that baby is 10 months old. Great post! Tired people have nothing on us!

  13. A lack of sleep is definitely one I was worried about through pregnancy and unfortunately one I had to deal with. There was a time when Zach went through feeding every two hours, 24 hours a day. It was absolutely exhausting and I not only walked around like a zombie but also had to stop breastfeeding because I just couldn’t cope. Now if I get a bad sleep I am ruddy tired but it is nothing close to how it was in those newborn days! Thanks so much for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday

  14. Yep being tortured. I have actually been an insomniac most of my life, so I cope fairly well with too little sleep. However, I think the irony of the situation makes it worse – because I now am able to fall asleep…but I don’t get the chance! #effitfriday

  15. I was really intrigued to read this because I feel sleep deprived at the moment. I wondered if I was being melodramatic but it’s reassured me that it’s probably a combination of both. Sometimes I’m just tired. But some days, like today, when for the past few weeks I have averaged three, maybe four hours sleep and I feel tearful all day and am extremely clumsy, I realise I probably am a little sleep deprived 🙂
    Thanks for not making me feel like a drama queen! #bigfatlinky

  16. Two of my three are terrible sleepers, and now the only one that used to sleep solidly has started messing around loads at bedtime and also waking up every night. It’s now been six long years, and yes torture is a good way of describing it!

    Whilst it’s not a competition, I get wound up when people try and tell me that they understand yet only have one baby who actually sleeps pretty well… Great post!!

  17. I remember when I was breastfeeding in the middle of the night trying to comfort crying babies, it was torture. But I do admit I’ve been absolutely blessed to have kids who (once they started sleeping through the night) just sleep right through. Honestly, I couldn’t have coped if not. Sorry you’re in the throes of it! I wish I could offer a solution. Thanks for linking to #effitfriday

  18. I am defo a sleep deprived parent and I must admit there are times when I get so tired that I cannot function properly and do become forgetful, clumbsy and feel like completely smacking my head against a brick wall. I also suffer from insomnia so am often up during the night when I cannot sleep and it is worse when I am just starting to feellike I need to go back to bed but the kids are due to wake up at the same timeso I cannot. It is nice to know I am not the only one as I often feel I am.

  19. Oh bless I don’t know what I would do if my kids didn’t sleep I am awful if I ever have to be woken in the night. It’s only happened on rare occasions of illnesses. I always said if I had a third I bet I would get the one that never sleeps. Thank you so much for linking up to Share With Me #sharewithme

  20. As a parent ive been sleep deprived. It’s horrible so in that point I completely see this amd it’s true. I have a very active mind though so without the boys I get very little sleep. It’s the functioning property I struggle with. If you’re deprived of sleep it’s difficult to function. Thanks for linking up with us on the #bigfatlinky hope to see you there this week

      1. Yes! Even explaining sleep deprivation to my husband was difficult to explain. I let him sleep while I got up for nightly feedings/nursing also because I was a stay-at-home Mom. It definitely started to drag me down. I was mixing up appointment dates and misplacing items. It made me feel crazy! So yes, describing it as torture is only appropriate!

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